PACIFIC ADVANCE SENIOR SCHOOL, Otahuhu, Auckland
Pacific Advance Senior School in Otahuhu doesn’t look like a typical high school.
It operates out of an old office block in the heart of commercial Otahuhu. Students use local facilities, such as the council-owned recreation centre for physical training, to connect them to their community and avoid the need for a large school footprint.
Physical training is scheduled three times a week. Breakfast and lunch are provided for students and staff every day.
“My favourite part of school is the [physical] training,” says Isaac Faitau, aged 17.
“It helps keep me activated during classes. Also, the food here…I think all the students here love the food.”
Co-principal Falefatu Enari, who runs the school with his wife Parehuia, says the idea is to remove any barriers to learning.
“We try to keep the message very simple with our kids. If they can be at the right place, at the right time, with the right gear, the right attitude will take care of itself,” he says.
“If they are running late or haven’t eaten then they’re far from thinking about how to perform.”
He says the school looks for increased communication, increased responsibility and self-motivation as markers of success.
“Our deal is that we are not here for education solely, we are here for transformation,” he says.
Isaac is working towards level 3 NCEA and hopes to study performing arts or become a police officer after secondary school.
He says the teachers at PASS are a key contributor to his academic success.
“The teachers here, they care about us. They go the extra mile for us,” he says.
Tagata Keti, aged 18, is in her third year at PASS. She enrolled after dropping out of her previous school. Now, she is keen on becoming a maths teacher.
Tagata too says PASS teachers are encouraging and supportive.
“They bring love and compassion into school and they make you feel like you’re part of one big family.”
Within partnership schools, kids are finding a place to re-engage with education. Kids who wouldn’t be at school are chasing merits and excellence grades and getting them. I’ve got kids who thought university was a far-off dream, something for other people, and they are developing the work ethic that will get them there.
It’s providing a safe environment for kids to have a second crack at education. And we like to think we’re doing a good job of it – based on the smiles of the kids and also their results.”Falefatu Enari, co-principal of Pacific Advance Senior School
RISE UP ACADEMY, Mangere East, Auckland
Rise Up Academy’s vision is sharp minds, strong bodies and good hearts.
The Mangere Christian primary school, which caters for Maori and Pasifika children in years 1 to 8, has a strong performing arts focus. It also takes a holistic approach to academia. The school employs whanau educators, who work with families to identify students’ needs, goals and aspirations.
Parent-of-four and school administrator Laura Fe’ao says she applied for her job after her four children had been at the school for a short time.
“I wanted to be part of the team because I could see they really loved to see children succeed,” she says.
“This school is so invested, not just in the children but their families too. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Teachers, children and their families work together to set goals.
“It helps your child to succeed…they know that they are not doing this on their own. It’s a journey that we choose to do together,” says Laura.
Chief Executive Sita Selupe says the curriculum is “hearts and minds”-based. It centres on enquiry learning models, and parents are taught how to work in the same way to support their children.
“It’s really encouraging to see these parents use these tools to unlock their child’s genius here at school,” says Sita.
Rise Up Academy has an after-school programme with culture and heritage, sports and performing arts components.
“I do hope that the work that we do in our school is valued and acknowledged, and influences policy makers, because I believe that we are breaking some really hard ground, especially in Pasifika communities. And it does need to be shared,” says Sita.
“Through our various programmes, the whanau engagement and our hearts-and-minds-based curriculum, we believe we’ve got a model that can really impact Maori and Pacific education for many, many generations.”
“The partnership school context gives Pasifika communities opportunities to create, recreate and develop. It provides school environments that allow children to come through the school front gate and bring their whole self with them. They bring who they are, they bring their natural gifts and talents, they bring their culture and it is a safe space for them.”Sita Selupe, Chief Executive of Rise Up Academy
VANGUARD MILITARY ACADEMY, Albany, Auckland – students
Seventeen-year-old Hannah Harris-Juhasz travels for almost three hours each way to get to and from school. That’s how much she loves it.
“I get asked all the time why I go to a school so far away from my home. The commitment is worth it, for what I get out of the school,” she says.
Hannah admits to being a rebellious teenager prior to her move to Vanguard Military Academy. In fact, it was an act of defiance to take on “military school” when her parents suggested she wouldn’t be able to hack it.
“I ended up loving it. I love the discipline of it, the organisation, the people. The students are amazing. They are very caring, and so are the staff,” she says.
Hannah has embraced the daily military-style physical training and, with her newfound self-confidence, she is excelling at her studies.
Hannah says the life skills she has gained at Vanguard will help her in whatever field she chooses to pursue after school. At present, that future is psychology studies at university.
“If I hadn’t come to Vanguard, I doubt I would have any aspirations to go to uni,” she says.
“I have great role models in the teachers here and I admire them a lot.”
Head girl Victory Tupou, aged 17, concurs.
“When I started at Vanguard, I struggled a lot with self-confidence. And I was really quiet…which is funny now,” she says.
“It really opened me up. I realised there were people who actually cared about me as an individual, what I was achieving and what I was doing at school.”
“Now I enjoy pushing myself and seeing how much I can accomplish, in academics as well as in physical training.”
VANGUARD MILITARY ACADEMY, Albany, Auckland – teacher
Steve Mueller sees his role at Vanguard Military Academy as much more than a teacher. He runs the school’s tough physical training programme, and also sees himself as a counsellor, mentor and psychologist.
It’s all part of the rounded pastoral care approach taken by Vanguard.
“A large part of my role is to create that attitude of ‘do something today that your future self will thank you for’,” he says.
“These students have a lot to offer, they just might not have been given the opportunity to show it yet,” says ‘Staff’ Mueller, a former associate principal with more than 15 years’ teaching experience.
“The difference at Vanguard, I believe, is that every single recruit has got an opportunity at this school.
“I challenge them every single day. I will be in their face if they need it, or I’ll be nurturing if they need it, as long as they are embracing their opportunities,” he says.
“My hopes for my students are that they understand their potential and that life is made to be lived. I want them to lead a deliberate life, a life of their choice.
“One of the big things that I teach is about making choices that are going to lead you to a sense of freedom. And to me freedom is the ability to do a job you love.”
“Staff” Steve Mueller, Vanguard Military Academy:
“A lot of our students have developed a wall through experiencing failure, so it’s easier for them not to try. We break that down, big time. But then we build them back up. And then we celebrate our success.”
VANGUARD MILITARY ACADEMY, Albany, Auckland – chief executive Nick Hyde
Vanguard Military Academy has many of the trappings of life in the armed forces – strict uniforms, parades and gruelling physical training.
Chief Executive Nick Hyde says the school also has a very nurturing environment.
“As a military school, I know there are connotations as to who we are. We do have some rules, and there are consequences if you don’t follow them,” he says. “They are there to make sure that the environment is safe so our students can strive to be the best they can be without fear of being ridiculed for trying.”
“It’s about allowing the student to realise that self-discipline is a wonderful thing.”
Nick says the students are supported by an extensive pastoral care programme. Staff supervise a group of 15 students in ‘sections’ and work with them across multiple activities.
He believes teachers can then get more out of their students.
“You don’t just see them sitting behind a desk…you also see how well they push themselves going over an eight foot wall. You actually get to see their personalities. Who are the leaders? Who are the role models?” he says.
“I think that allows you to make better decisions on how to teach and how to get the best out of them.”
TE KURA MAORI O WAATEA, Mangere, Auckland
Te Kura Maori O Waatea has a clear mission. It is a school squarely aimed at addressing historical under-achievement in education by Maori children.
“By putting in the effort at primary school level, we can create pathways of learning for our children that can take them right through to tertiary level,” says Tania Rangiheuea, Tumuaki/Principal of the school.
The school has wrap-around services so that parents can support their child’s learning.
The school is located on a marae, with an early childhood centre next door and whanau support services nearby. They include budgeting and housing advice, a food bank, health services and job hunting support.
“Our school is about educating the whole child, not just from the shoulders up, and the whole whanau. We believe that successful learning for our children means family engagement, so we support the families,” says Tania.
Te Kura Maori O Waatea is now looking to extend its reach into secondary school.
“We’ve got high levels of non-completion of Maori students at secondary school and that’s a worry,” Tania says.
“I want our children to be successful….to make a positive contribution to our society.
“I want our children to have choices in their lives. Being uneducated is a recipe for having few – if any – choices in life.”
Parent Bronwyn Mau says her experience of the kura has been a positive one. She cites the teachers’ engagement with her six-year-old son Marcus, two-way communication with the school, and support for parents.
“It’s a really warm, loving environment,” she says.